Why an Outsourced Sales Development Team Is the Right Move for 2020

45 minutes of sales and marketing insights for B2B leaders sponsored by ProSales Connection.

We drill down into the data to uncover benchmarks and best practices for making use of outsourced marketing partners and fractional resources in 2020.

  • It's just as easy to reach people at home.
  • There's a shorter path to fill your pipeline if you double down and focus your energy on the predictable.
  • Your competitors are doing it.
  • You are 100% in control of all activities.


  • Event Speaker: Mike Faherty, Founder and CEO of ProSales Connection
  • Speaker bio: Mike is a member of Vistage International, President of the Association of Inside Sales Professional, Houston Chapter, an Alumni of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program, a member of the University of Arizona's Wildcat Mentor Society, and various other local business organizations.
  • Speaker Topic: Sales, sales development, demand generation, lead generation, business, marketing, communication, B2B, business-to-business.
  • Event Audience: Founders, chief officers, sales and marketing executives, event managers, sales people, marketing coordinators.

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Webinar Transcript: 

If you needed to generate a new sales pipeline as quickly as possible and are looking for alternate ways to generate leads and demand for your B2B company, you've come to the right place.  

Let's face it; the business reality is creating shifting market conditions. Networking has been a great way to build your pipeline, but it can be challenging to network or "relationship" your way to your goals with these new conditions.  

So what is a sales development program, a sales development team, and why do you need SDRs? 

The sales funnel can be broken into three areas - top, middle, and bottom. Think of the top as attract, middle as engage, and the bottom as convert. Good examples of the top are inbound marketing, paid advertising, event marketing, and public relations. For many businesses, the temptation is to start at the top by running ads, creating content, or going to events. The reality is, that's probably the second step in this process. Most customers find the success and the highest return on their investment around sales development. Sales development is the outbound activity where you're proactively engaging your target customers, delivering a message to them on a one on one basis, and starting the conversation. When that message is received well, and those customers are interested in what you have to say, the salesperson can qualify them as an appropriate lead for their business, and then quickly move them into the sales process.

We believe it's most efficient to start in the marketing program in the middle of the funnel because it validates the message that converts people into sales opportunities. You can take that knowledge and use it for your top funnel activities. So that's one enormous value. If you don't know how to convert interested people or ideal prospects into interested or engaged opportunities, then you're wasting money at the top of the funnel.

Reisolating the outbound sales development piece and fine-tuning your metrics around that particular activity is step one. Step two, get more people into that process. And then step three, how can we improve the sales process at the bottom of the funnel? 

The sales development team deliverable should almost always be a meeting with a targeted prospect who wants to have a sales conversation with you. That should ultimately be the goal of the sales development team. They shouldn't be "generating leads." What they should be doing is securing the first sales conversation for the sales team.

How do we measure this, and how do we manage a sales development team's effectiveness?

There's probably a dozen metrics that we look at daily, if not hourly, but most of it boils down to three areas. The first is: what is the call activity? The volume of calls that we're making. The second piece is how many conversations are started. So how many times when we make a phone call, do we have a conversation with someone? What is the quality of that conversation? And then finally, when we have conversations with people, how many of those conversations turn into a positive outcome? In this case, almost always, that's a sales meeting. So call activity, conversation rate, conversion rate. The key metrics that we use to measure the effectiveness of our sales development team have not changed in any significant way. We're finding that it's just as easy to reach people at home or in limited attendance offices. So despite what you've assumed or experienced, our conversation rates have been consistent with the numbers before the pandemic. 

Why is sales development important now? You can dramatically shorten the sales cycle time and increase the number of opportunities you put in the pipeline by deploying a sales development team. I think both things are really important at this moment. Many of us feel like the world went dark for three or four months, and maybe it still feels like that for some of you. Getting proactive with the content is a terrific way to get more deals into the pipeline fast. 

We recommend that you commit to action. There is always a market condition impacting business, whether that be a macroeconomic concern, whether it be a specific industry, things like this happen regularly. So we can't sit back and absorb that challenge. We have to get proactive and take action. Something we love to say around here is that done is better than perfect. So you have a gap. That means you need a plan. And I believe that people spend way too much time planning. A great plan is better than a good plan, but taking the time to create a perfect plan, and losing time in the process is not going to yield the results you want. So I always opt for action over the perfect plan. So, done is better than perfect, double down in a practical and time-tested way.

Nothing is more fundamental than having a phone conversation with a sales prospect or a lead or a targeted contact. We've been doing this as long as there have been phones. So strip away all of the distractions that salespeople get caught up in, like social media or sending emails. I listened to someone tell me earlier this week that he's challenging his salespeople to send 500 emails each every single day. And I've got a real suspicion that is not a productive use of anyone's time.

Sending as many emails as you can, I think, is probably a good thing, but not at the expense of picking up the phone and having real conversations with prospects. So don't get bought into this idea that you can't get anyone on the phone. Focus on the things you can control. Picking up the phone and making a phone call is 100% under your control. Now is the time to take action. You don't need anyone or anything to do that sort of action and start conversations with the people you want to do business with.

How to optimize your outbound sales development process?

If you have a sales development team already or have people on your team that are tasked with this sort of activity, I'm going to share some ideas on ways to make them more productive for the rest of 2020. So how well do you feel like you're executing on the basics?

Often, I'll ask people if they are making phone calls, and they'll reply; I don't have anyone to call. Then this is what I'll ask them. Number one, have you called every person that's done business with you until you have a conversation with them? People give up way too early. Call them, if you don't reach them, leave them a message, call them again, keep calling them until you get them on the phone and have a conversation with them. Call every deal that was closed or lost. That might have been six months ago, one quarter ago, or a couple of years ago. Depending on your sales cycle, it might be relevant to call everyone, even the deals that you lost two weeks ago. Call all your old customers who have changed jobs recently. This is such a simple idea. I'm surprised at how many people miss it. Look at LinkedIn. LinkedIn is an incredible resource for you to track the people that you've done business with and get a set of notifications when people change jobs. Whenever they change jobs, you pick up the phone, call them, ask them how they're doing, congratulate them on their new position, and check-in with them again. Put your name in front of them and become top of mind, especially if you did an excellent job for them in the past. Please don't wait for them to remember you.

Make sure that you're staying top of mind with people as they change jobs and, at the minimum, spend dedicated time during the prime hours of each day making phone calls. Salespeople will find anything that looks productive to do, to avoid making a cold call. They will make sure that their expense reports are up to date. They will make sure that their CRM is entirely current and has accurate information, and they will do any administrative task, any ugly task, to avoid making phone calls. Make it a part of the discipline to do that at the beginning of the day. Not only is it a great time to call people, but once you get that out of the way, your salespeople can feel more confident that they've been productive and they can start to spend the rest of their day following up on action items that came out of those conversations in the morning. It's just best practice. 

So how do you optimize your sales development team? You need a great list. The list is one of the key elements of a successful marketing program and a sales development program. We start every conversation with the list. Where's the data, who is the audience? Who are we trying to reach? You need to provide a great list for your SDRs, even if it comes at a significant investment. You're going to put a high value people on the phone calling this data. If you give them bad data or a cheap list, they will not have the success they need, which will discourage them from making the phone calls. And they will waste their time, which you can't afford and they won't tolerate, especially if they're commissioned salespeople, they simply won't waste their time. So you have to give them good data, even if that requires an investment. Depending on your market and depending on the people you like to do business with, a cost for a contact might be anywhere from 50 cents to $5 a contact. It depends on who you're selling to, but find out what that is, investigate some list sources, and make an investment in a good high-quality list.

Finally, make sure that the data gets added to your CRM that's organized by persona, and that you have ways to measure activity and conversion metrics automatically. That way, you can hold your SDRs accountable for not only working the data but keeping the data clean and accurate. 

A sales development team is best when it's isolated to a separate team, and that might require or warrant the shifting of headcount. It's been our experience. We've been running sales development programs for 12 years, day in and day out. We've made over 2 million cold calls at ProSales Connection. And I can tell you that one dedicated, motivated, well-resourced sales development rep can outperform, from a prospecting standpoint, as many as four or more salespeople who are just doing that as a part of their job. People have heard me make this recommendation. You've got five sales reps, and you're struggling to get prospecting calls made? It may be time to look at which one of those salespeople needs to be converted to a sales development rep and use them to build the sales pipeline, start the conversations, and optimize the other four. That is almost always a better plan than trying to motivate the five to make the outbound calls at a consistent level. A well-motivated sales development rep should easily make 65 phone calls a day, or in some cases, depending on the systems and tools and expectations in the data they're working with, they might be able to easily make high-quality calls at 120, 140 calls per day. One person who's focused on that activity can dramatically outperform the whole team. The opportunity here is to strip away everything else. If you're asking people to be a sales development person, and you're asking them to make the primary function of their job prospecting and cold calling, it's important that you strip away everything that is not related to that activity. If you can do that, then you can get the very most out of those resources.

Of course, the last option is to outsource that function to an outsourced team, a company like ours. The real benefit here is that those internal distractions and administrivia unencumber those teams, they're not burdened with manual reporting, internal meetings, all the things that get in the way of the focus that a good sales development person or team needs. The other value is you can use that external team as an incubator. Use them to inject and test and refine new ideas, new messages, best practices, and take those learnings and then implement them inside your business. So having sort of this laboratory, if you will, off to the side, that's just outside of the reach of the administrivia, it's just outside of the reach of those internal sorts of distractions, use that team to figure out what works and how to make that function perform at a very, very high level. And then figure out what you can take away from that. At 120 phone calls in a day, you're going to learn five times the rate of someone who's making 20, 25 phone calls a day. You're going to learn five times faster. You do that week after week, month after month, and your ability to test and learn is just dramatically accelerated.

So stop mass emailing as a primary means of cold contact. Suppose you're sending out an email blast. In that case, you're setting yourself up for a real problem because bulk email can produce massive negative metrics and domain credibility damage, and it can do it quickly. Don't jeopardize your important customer emails' deliverability by doing spam-based emailing using a mass email system.

The third point is that email prospecting and social media networks can serve as excuses for not making phone calls. Take away the excuse from the sales team and the sales development team that emailing and social media connections are the best uses of their time. There is a place for that, but it should be what you do with the time you have leftover after being on the phone and talking with people. So what do you do instead?

Send one to one personalized emails on a communication framework and not a generic email template. If you were going to send one to one emails from a sales development rep to a prospect, that's better than bulk email. It's not quite as good as making phone calls, but it can still be a useful exercise. If you're going to do that, though, make sure that you're sending customized and personalized emails for that particular individual. You should provide them with a framework for how you want those emails to look, but that should not be a strict template. It should not be a "fill in the blank" template. If it worked, I'd say do it because it's d obviously faster, but it just won't work at the scale you need in a B2B solution selling world. If you need to do mass emailing, there is a place for it. It needs to be done from a standard email box or an inbox scheduler. And don't send an email blast from a marketing automation platform. There are tons of great tools out there that do this type of activity. 

Let's talk about lost opportunity costs of not making use of an outbound sales development team. Trying to get people resistant to doing this type of activity to do it right is tough. It's part of why we built this business on our ability to make cold calls, because it's such an undesirable activity by salespeople, for whatever reason. There are some unicorns out there that really like it and understand its value and do it well. We happen to build teams that are able to do those things consistently. What I mean by lost opportunity here is, it may not be worth the effort to try to turn that ship around and change that behavior. Outsourcing it or building an internal team that does just that one thing might be a faster path to the results that you're looking for. Secondly, by developing a process for consistent sales development activities, you can shorten the time frame to put deals in the pipeline. The easiest way to understand that if you made a month's worth of calls in a week, you could add four times the number of deals in the same period to your pipeline. It's just as simple as that. So right now, if it is taking a salesperson a month to make 500 cold calls and you make those 500 calls in one week with a dedicated sales development rep, then you've done a month's worth of activity in one week. That means you put a month's worth of new engagements into the pipeline, and you did it in a week. And you can do that second week, the third week, the fourth week and on. So it's a way to very quickly increase the number of deals that you're putting in the pipeline. And in some cases that might be four times the deals or greater. 


Mike Faherty

Mike Faherty is the Founder & CEO of ProSales Connection, a sales and marketing firm based in Houston, Texas. ProSales Connection specializes in helping B2B and technology companies grow through sales appointment setting and outsourced inside sales programs.

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